As Christmas is just around the corner, there’s one tradition that children just can’t live without. It’s been decorating the entire world for almost two decades, it is the advent calendar. What started as a simple way for German families to mark the days until Christmas arrives, has become a merchandise ( how not) opportunity to excite anticipated little ones, with a countdown to the big day. So what is the history of advent calendars, the sweet (or playful) that has stood the test of time?
In the early 19th century, the idea of counting down the days until Christmas took a creative turn in Germany. Lutherans (another branch of protestants), were eager to engage their children in the joyful anticipation of the holiday and began marking the days with chalk lines on their doors. This approach, known as “chalk counting,” gave the kids an opportunity to wipe a line each day, and wait patiently for Santa to come down the chimney.
A Mother’s Treat
Gerhard Lang was the one who introduced the advent calendar as we know it today, back in the early 20th century. The modern Advent calendar was inspired by his childhood memory of his mother. She would attach sweets and chocolates to a piece of cardboard for him and his siblings to collect throughout December. Lang’s calendar featured 24 little doors, each concealing a festive image or a piece of candy.
It Went Viral
Within no time the idea of a “door-opening” calendar spread throughout Germany and later on expanded to many other countries. The designs became creative and innovative, and the sky was the limit when it came to imagination. The first calendars featured religious images and illustrations that were not entirely child-friendly. By the 1920s, the calenders went under mass production and the 24 door boxes made their way into the hearts and homes of people all over the world.
Family Style Calenders
Shortcuts of paper during World War II disrupted the production of calendars. Not long after the war was over, the calendars returned with renewed popularity, and their designs became much more family-friendly and featured attractive and more approachable designs. From winter wonderlands to notable cartoon images, the illustrations captured the essence of the season, creating a daily dose of holiday magic and sparks for the entire family.
In the mid-20th century, things escalated and took the 24-door box another step forward. Fill Your Own Versions was introduced. Families could now personalize the countdown by placing their favorite treats behind each door. This was innovative, it gave the calendar a personal touch and added a new layer of excitement to each day of December.
Modern technology didn’t pass over the Advent calendars. The traditional paper was now replaced by various forms, such as interactive experiences, and festive games, and the box could have been made from metal, wood, or plastic. The flipping doors had no limit and could be designed in any size, shape, or form. Recent years have seen beauty products small toys, and even alcoholic beverages have become popular for the adult crowd. the simple countdown has turned into an (expensive) daily ritual of joy.
In a magical and Christmassy way, a simple German tradition has evolved into a global symbol of the holiday, and from what started as chalk markings on doors has turned into one of the must-haves purchased just before December knocks on our doors. So, don’t forget to get one of those advent calendars, open the first door as December begins, and let the festive festivities begin!